Physostigma venenosum, 2 seeds

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Physostigma venenosum seeds


Physostigma venenosum is a native plant to West Africa. It has common names such as Calabar bean or ordeal bean and Gottesurteilbean. The plant has a perennial life cycle and climbs over other trees with its woody stem. The plant is known to be found in Nigeria, Kalabar River. It belongs to the legumes family. It has three parts and grows to a height of 15m tall.

Kalabarbohne leaves are pinnate and ovate pointed. They are divided into three parts. The bracts of this plant fall off while the plant is still young. The flowers from the tree are rolled up just like butterfly flowers and are often 3cm long. The wings and shuttle of the flowers are dark-purple in colour. The flag fully covers them and the shuttle is twisted on the upper part. The stamp has a pedicle ovary that has a slender, bent pen near the shuttle. The fruit from this plant is thick and brown. It has about 17inches of length and has 2-3 seeds inside. The seed produced is chocolate brown with a length of 3cm, is kidney shaped with both ends round in shape. The scar is always left at the placenta where the seed grew.

Physostigma venenosum plant fertilises itself. It has both the female and male organs. Insects, mostly bees or cross-pollination do the pollination. The plant produces nectar that attracts these insects.
The extract from Physostigma venenosum plant was used in early days to narrow the pupil. Physostigmine, a remedy from the plant, is used as an effective antidote for atropine poisoning. The seeds of this plant are however poisonous and should be avoided or taken in limited potion upon appropriate preparation.
In Nigeria, the plant was used to carry out rituals specifically by the Efik people. The part of the plant used mostly was the seed. The bean was given to suspected criminal to bring judgment from God. In most cases, most people given this seed would die in about a half an hour and this showed that they were guilty. If the person vomits the seed after taking, they were said to be innocent of the accusation. For this reason, the people of Nigeria kept the plant a secret and could not reveal it to the white for a longer period. The plant is though currently used by several states for various purposes.

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